Date of Award

Spring 5-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Urban Studies


School of Urban and Regional Planning

Major Professor

Gladstone, David

Second Advisor

Beriss, David

Third Advisor

Thoreson, Amy

Fourth Advisor

Haughey, Patrick


In the last twenty years, Saudi Arabia has been modernizing much faster and in a shorter period than in the majority of the world’s countries. This study seeks to examine factors that influence the diet of Saudi Arabians. Aside from language, one of the principal manifestations of culture is a country’s cuisine.

I sought to determine whether factors, such as exposure to other countries, an income increase, or simply the desire to diversify the palette have led to a change in diet.

This mixed-methods study employed 148 surveys looking at attitudes towards the United States and other countries, travel abroad, age, religiousness, and the influence of television and the Internet. These variables were correlated against where food is bought and dining preference. Fifteen in-depth interviews looked at longitudinal changes in traditional vegetable and meat markets since the arrival of the hypermarket.

Findings indicated that the recent introduction of a multitude of foreign restaurants and foods into Saudi Arabia is not a new story, but only a new chapter in a book written by Saudi merchants. The Gulf Arabs are known, and have been known for millennia, as traders. I put forward that Saudi businessmen are the agents of change not multinational corporations. The presence of these restaurants and hypermarkets is due largely to pull, not push factors. If their culture is dramatically changing, then it is at the behest of Saudi Arabians themselves.


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